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What do you bring to a house dinner date?

When invited to a dinner date at someone’s house, it can be tricky to know what to bring. You want to be a gracious guest and properly prepared, but you also don’t want to overdo it. The key is striking the right balance between bringing a thoughtful gift for the host/hostess and something to share, while still keeping things casual. In this article, we’ll go over some quick tips on what to bring to a house dinner date and how to be the ideal dinner guest.

Should you bring something?

Yes, you should absolutely bring something small when invited to someone’s home for dinner. Even if they tell you that you don’t need to bring anything, it’s polite to arrive with a small token of appreciation. Some quick gift ideas include:

  • A bottle of wine or specialty beer
  • Fresh flowers or a plant
  • Chocolates or fancy dessert
  • Candles
  • Gourmet ingredients to contribute to the meal

Choose something thoughtful that fits within your budget. A bottle of wine is almost always appreciated, just make sure to ask about any preferences or restrictions first. Flowers are another safe bet, as they can serve as a centerpiece. Take cues from what you know about your host’s tastes. Ultimately, the gesture is what matters most.

How much should you spend?

When it comes to spending, keep it modest. The goal is just to show your gratitude, not to overwhelm or embarrass your host. Here are some general spending guidelines:

Gift Idea Budget
Bottle of wine $10 – $20
Flowers $10 – $20
Dessert $5 – $15
Candles $5 – $15
Ingredients $10 – $20

Spending $15-25 is usually perfect. Go a bit higher if it’s a special occasion or they are preparing an elaborate meal. The thought is what matters most, not the price tag.

Choosing the Right Gift

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s go a bit more in depth on choosing the perfect gift. Consider the occasion, your relationship to the host, and practical needs.

For casual dinner parties

If your host is having a laidback dinner party with friends, it’s usually best to keep the gift casual as well. Some safe options include:

  • Bottle of wine – Pick a moderately priced wine you enjoy. Ask if they have a preference for red or white.
  • Flowers – A bouquet or living plant like orchids can inject some beauty. Opt for their favorite flowers or colors.
  • Dessert – Baked goods, fancy chocolate, or gourmet treats make tasty endings.
  • Candles – Scented candles set a warm ambiance. Stick with neutral scents.
  • Snacks – Nuts, fancy olives, or charcuterie pair nicely with drinks.

For casual get-togethers with friends, feel free to keep the gift modest. The most important thing is showing you cared to bring something.

For formal or holiday meals

If you’re invited for more formal occasions like Thanksgiving or a dinner party with couples you don’t know as well, step the gift up a notch. Some ideas include:

  • Flowers – A formal bouquet or luxurious plant conveys you care.
  • Fine wine or champagne – Pick a more expensive bottle for special events.
  • Gourmet treats – Truffles, imported cheeses, smoked salmon, or luxury nuts.
  • High-end candles – Diptyque, Jo Malone, or other fine fragrances.
  • Cocktail mixer – Craft gin, vodka, or other spirits to share.

Aim for gifts in the $30-50 range for more formal or celebratory dinners. It shows respect for the occasion.

For relatives or older adults

If you’re visiting grandparents or older relatives, make functionality a priority. Helpful gestures include:

  • Flowers in a vase – They won’t have to transfer or find one.
  • Wine with an opener – Choose an easy twist-off cap or bring a wine opener.
  • Pre-made dessert – Save them the trouble with a pie, cookies, or pastries.
  • Herbal tea – Chamomile, ginger, mint and other soothing teas make a nice gift.
  • Fresh fruit – Opt for washed, chopped, and ready to eat fruits.

Focus on bringing items your hosts can truly use and enjoy without much hassle. Offer to help serve tea or dessert when you arrive.

For young adults/housewarmings

When gifting for young adults in newer homes, pick useful items to help furnish their space. Ideas include:

  • Candles – Help decorate and scent their home.
  • Coffee table books – Photo books, cocktails guides, and recipe books inject personality.
  • Gourmet snacks – Specialty chocolates, nuts, oils for an upgraded pantry.
  • Hand soap and towels – Elevate their bathroom.
  • Kitchen tools – Cooking utensils, serving pieces, aprons, etc.

Aim for gifts in the $15-30 range that you’d enjoy receiving yourself as a homeowner. Stay away from anything too personal.

Food and Drinks to Bring

Beyond a gift, you may also want to contribute an item to share at the meal itself. This takes the pressure off your host having to make everything themselves.


Bringing an easy appetizer is a great way to start off the night. Some options include:

  • Cheese board – Pick 3-4 artisanal cheeses, nuts, chutney and crackers.
  • Charcuterie – Cured meats, spreads, mustards and olives.
  • Bruschetta – Make traditional tomato topping or get creative.
  • Stuffed mushrooms – Fill with cheese, sausage, spinach, etc.
  • Shrimp cocktail – Always a crowd pleaser.

Having an appetizer contribution takes the pressure off your hosts when guests arrive hungry. It also gives you something helpful to do in the kitchen.

Side dishes

Offering to bring a side dish is enormously helpful for your hosts. Complement their main courses with:

  • Salad – Whip up green, pasta, or fruit salads.
  • Roasted vegetables – Root veggies, Brussels sprouts, asparagus.
  • Grains – Quinoa, couscous, rice or risotto.
  • Breads – Focaccia, rolls, or quick breads.
  • Soup – Butternut squash, tomato bisque, or chilli.

Coordinate with your host so your side compliments the menu. Offer to arrive early to help cook, chop ingredients or set the table.


Satisfy that sweet tooth by volunteering to bring dessert. Favorite options include:

  • Chocolate mousse – Light yet decadent.
  • Cheesecake – Classic New York style or creative flavors.
  • Tart – Lemon, fruit or custard.
  • Trifle – A stunning layered delight.
  • Cookies – Chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, shortbread.

Offer to plate dessert on their nicer serving dishes too. It’s one less thing for an exhausted host.


Beverage contributions are hugely helpful for busy hosts. Ideas include:

  • Wine – Supplement what they’re serving.
  • Craft beer – Pick out a seasonal six pack.
  • Signature cocktails – Offer your mixing skills.
  • Non-alcoholic – Sparkling juice, lemonades, teas.
  • Coffee/tea – Help with after dinner offerings.

Aim for drinks not everyone has on hand, but crowd-pleasing flavors. Bringing your own signature cocktail or mocktail is also a fun way to add your personalized touch.

Dinner Guest Etiquette

Now that you know what to bring, it’s also key to mind your manners as a house dinner guest.


  • Aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early or on time. Give a heads up if you’ll be late.
  • Greet your host warmly with a smile. Compliment how they look, their home, or a good smelling dish.
  • Bring in food contributions to the kitchen and offer help finishing up any prep.
  • Wait for your host to offer you a drink instead of asking.
  • Make conversation by asking how their day was, plans for the weekend, etc.

Starting things off on the right foot helps break the ice.

During the Meal

  • Wait for your host to begin eating before you dig in.
  • Don’t begin eating until everyone is served and seated.
  • Chew with your mouth closed and avoid speaking with food in your mouth.
  • Compliment the food your host prepared.
  • Participate in the conversation and ask others questions about themselves.
  • Offer to help clear plates or refill drinks.

Minding table manners is important to avoid embarrassing your host. Read the room before taking seconds.

After Dinner

  • Always offer to help with clean up – wash dishes, put away leftovers, take out trash.
  • Thank your host for having you, for making dinner, and for their hospitality.
  • Send a follow-up text or email re-expressing your gratitude for a lovely night.
  • Reciprocate by having them over in the future or taking them to a restaurant.

Being an amenable guest who chips in leaves a great last impression. Don’t overstay your welcome either.

Key Takeaways

Attending a house dinner date? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Bring a small, thoughtful gift like wine, flowers, or dessert.
  • Spend $15-50 depending on the occasion and your relationship.
  • Consider contributing an appetizer, side dish or drinks.
  • Arrive on time bearing gifts and ready to assist.
  • Mind your manners at the table and participate in conversation.
  • Offer to help clean up after dinner.
  • Follow up with a thoughtful text or email after.

With a gracious gift, willingness to help, and appreciation for their hospitality, you’ll be a delightful dinner date guests keep inviting back. The thoughtfulness will be remembered long after the meal.


Being invited to someone’s home for dinner is an opportunity to deepen bonds and show you care. While it’s polite to bring a small gift or contribution, the most meaningful offering is your presence. Participate in the experience by helping where you can, engaging in real conversation, and showing gratitude. With thoughtfulness and care, you can nourish the relationship far beyond just a shared meal.